Various religious formations, people’s organizations and artist groups organized a cultural event dubbed as the “Truth Festival” which aimed to “expose the liability of Arroyo government” in the worsening economic condition of the country and the armed conflict in Mindanao. Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) and its member organizations aired out their respective grievances and demands to the Macapagal-Arroyo administration, but in creative ways.
BY JEFFREY OCAMPO
Vol. VIII, No. 29, August 24-30, 2008
Various religious formations, people’s organizations and artist groups held a cultural event at Plaza Rajah Soliman along Roxas Boulevard in Pasay City last Friday, Aug. 22. Dubbed as “Truth Festival”, the event aimed to “expose the liability” of the Arroyo administration in the worsening economic crisis and in the war in Mindanao. Furthermore, they questioned the administration’s claim that changing the 1987 Constitution is the solution to the armed conflict in the south. On the contrary, they said tMrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (PGMA) would only use charter change to extend her presidency beyond 2010 and vindicate her from the “crimes” she committed against the people. They urged the people to “stand for truth” and remain vigilant amid the president’s tactical maneuverings to stay in power.
Different cultural groups, chorales, bands and performing artists like singer Grace Nono and dancer/choreographer Myra Beltran performed their pieces on the “stage of truth”. As it was also an interfaith gathering, different religious groups offered prayers and urged people “to stand for truth” in the midst of the Arroyo administration’s efforts to bury it.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayah or New Patriotic Alliance) and its member organizations, meanwhile, registered their respective grievances and demands to the Arroyo administration in creative ways. They occupied the chain of stalls (the idea was part of the design of the festival) along Bay Walk as they encouraged the people passing by to participate in signature campaigns, to read pamphlets and acquire t-shirts, books and other items on sale. Walking along the chain of stalls of different anti-GMA groups, one would realize the huge, sustained and creative efforts exerted by these groups to finally remove the president from her position. BAYAN cited the escalation of poverty, violence and state repression and the president’s desperate attempt to maintain – and even prolong – her stay in power as the reasons why people continuously mount mass actions against her administration.
In a stall shared by Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainee Laban sa Detensiyon at para sa Amnestiya (SELDA) and Desaparecidos, photographs of victims of illegal detention, extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances and other forms of political repression were mounted. The groups are calling for the immediate release of National Democratic Front consultant Elizabeth Principe, who is in the custody of the military and Leo Velasco, a victim of enforced disappearance. The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines), meanwhile, called for the release of Randy Echanis who was abducted by military forces last January in Bago City, Negros Occidental. Echanis, KMP’s Deputy Secretary-General, was consulting members of different farm workers’ organizations regarding the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill when he was forcibly taken by his abductors.
According to the report of Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of Peoples’ Rights), there had been 910 cases of extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions and 193 cases of enforced and involuntary disappearance since Arroyo assumed power in 2001. The rights group said that the Arroyo administration has used the “dirty tactic” of political persecution in silencing its opponents.
“Despicable head of state”
The latest survey of Pulse Asia cites Arroyo as the most unpopular Philippine president since the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
People’s organizations have been finding creative ways to express their rage towards the “despicable head of state.”
At the stall of Women Wise3 (Employment, Empowerment and Emancipation), an organization of wives of labor leaders who have been victims of political repression and killings, stood a papier-mâché caricature of PGMA and a sign that said: “1 piso, isang sampal kay Gloria” (1 peso, one slap at Gloria’s face). Part of their income-generating activity to support their campaigns, passersby were asked to donate a peso in exchange for the opportunity to slap the face of the dummy and express their rage against the president. According to Luz Fortuna, wife of slain Nestle union leader Diosdado Fortuna, “Arroyo has committed so many crimes against the people that she must step down [from her position] immediately.”
Cases of corruption: a long, long list
The Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) made maskara (masks) which, according to Noel Anda, one of the group’s members, signify the government’s desperate use of camouflage to hide its true character. PCPR took the higantes they made for the last State of the Nation Address rally to the Truth Festival. They also made placards proclaiming that PGMA is guilty of corruption such as in the $329-billion National Broadband Network Deal with ZTE of China, the $200-billion Jose Pidal account and the $728-billion fertilizer scam.
Meanwhile, the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG) sold copies of their book Corruptionary, a compilation of corruption related terms. Religious groups present in the event, likewise, encouraged the people to unite to unravel the truth behind the long list of corruption cases of the Arroyo administration. Arroyo must be held liable for these cases and consequently prosecuted, the groups added.